General Aviation and PFSbrands:
Unless you’ve experienced the advantages of corporate aviation first hand, it’s hard to truly understand the benefits. However, organizations such as the National Business Aviation Association and their members undoubtedly “get it”.
In 2006, our foodservice company PFSbrands started growing well beyond the Missouri state line. Prior to that year we did business in MO, western IL, and eastern KS. I was getting stretched for time as was our top-producing salesperson.
Our company began to grow significantly in Oklahoma and requests from various other states were beginning to trickle in. While this company growth was great, it placed significant demands on my time–the demands I didn’t mind, but the time I didn’t have.
Fascination with Aviation as a Youngster
As a kid I was introduced to general aviation at an early age. My father was a private pilot for a brief period when I was a young boy. He originally got his license for much the same reason, to save time.
Unfortunately, soon after he earned his private pilot rating, he was diagnosed with a heart condition. This heart condition forced him to take a medication that prohibited him from piloting. I was fortunate enough to travel with him a couple times and experience flying in a small aircraft.
Becoming a Pilot
In early 2006 I decided to walk into the Jefferson City, MO airport and inquire about flight training. I met the flight instructor there at the time.
To make a long story short, I came home with a complete packet of books, walked in the house, and told my wife that I was going to get my pilot’s license. I’d like to say Julie was surprised, but she was accustomed to my way of making decisions. Typically when I decide to do something, I move forward quickly.
I did most of my flight training in the early mornings so I could still get a full day of work in.
Buying and Insuring my First Plane
I ended up buying a 1999 Bonanza A36 before I finished my private pilot training. For those of you that know anything about general aviation, you can imagine the challenges I had in obtaining insurance on this type of airplane before I even had a license.
The Bonanza A36 is a high-performance, complex airplane with retractable landing gear. From an insurance perspective it is equivalent to putting a new 16 year old driver in a Corvette.
However, I found an insurance company that understood my vision of training. I wanted to use my flight instructor and the airplane for two purposes. I wanted to build flight time and I wanted to learn in the airplane I was going to fly.
I also wanted to grow my business at the same time. The insurance company agreed to certify me to fly solo in the Bonanza only after 1) I received my private pilot license, 2) I received my instrument rating, and 3) after I received an endorsement to fly a high performance, complex airplane. No small task but I knew what I had to do!
Certification at Last
Six months after that day I walked into the airport, I was certified with all of the appropriate ratings. The instrument rating meant that I could fly in non-visual conditions (clouds) which was critical to making the airplane useful for business.
PFSbrands is located in central Missouri. There is not a commercial airline service in close proximity meeting our needs. Our primary customers are also located in rural America. There are no major airports close to those small towns. This is why general aviation has been such a great tool for PFSbrands.
Looking back to 2006 I had three small daughters at home. The oldest was 8, the next 5, and the youngest 2. I was not interested in traveling 3 or 4 nights every week to grow our business.
I also wanted to help with coaching the girls in some athletics and I wanted to be around to see them growing up. General aviation allowed me to not only grow our business, but it allowed me to be home more often.
Company Growth and Fleet Rotation
Ten years later we are still using general aviation as a tool to grow our business. We’ve had a full-time pilot since 2007 and I’ve continued to expand my ratings so I can fly the airplanes we have in our fleet.
Since the original Bonanza we’ve operated several different airplanes. After selling the Bonanza, we purchased a TBM700 which we still have today. The TBM allowed us to go higher, farther, and faster. Something every pilot and business owner desires.
As company growth continued, we decided to add a second aircraft. We chose to purchase another Bonanza. Later the same year we sold that Bonanza and added a TBM850 which served us well for several years.
In late 2015 we bought our first new airplane which is a Cessna Citation M2. The TBM700 and the M2 make up our aviation fleet today and these airplanes currently serve our needs very well.
The Correlation Between Our Planes and Top-line Growth
Other than the quality people that work at PFSbrands and our overall culture, general aviation is likely the next biggest contributing factor to our success. PFSbrands is a company based on support.
We support our employees, who in turn support our customers. General aviation provides us a way to improve the work-life balance for many of those individuals that need to travel in order to do their job. General aviation also provides us a way to be there for our customers and potential customers when they need us. The airplanes are used by various departments within PFSbrands.
General Aviation is More than a Luxury
Are private airplanes a luxury? I believe they are and I feel very fortunate to be able to experience them firsthand.
I’m also proud to be in a very elite group of people who can actually fly these great machines. However, the real takeaway is that airplanes can be an invaluable business tool. The aviation industry as a whole is also a major driving force in our economy.
At PFSbrands we use these assets to grow our business. Business growth leads to better opportunities for all of the dedicated employee owners at PFSbrands as well as all of our valued customers.
People often ask me if I love to fly. I guess I do. But what I really love is being able to get from point A to point B quickly and efficiently.
Time is money and I don’t like wasting either one of them. But I have to admit, life is pretty peaceful at 41,000 feet in clear skies!
For more on how general aviation has helped us grow contact us.
Copyright © 2018 Shawn Burcham. All Rights Reserved.